Allied Warships

HMS Hollyhock (K 64)

Corvette of the Flower class

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantK 64 
Built byJohn Crown & Sons Ltd. (Sunderland, U.K) : N.E. Marine 
Ordered31 Aug 1939 
Laid down27 Nov 1939 
Launched19 Aug 1940 
Commissioned19 Nov 1940 
Lost9 Apr 1942 
Loss position7° 21'N, 81° 57'E

HMS Hollyhock (Lt.Cdr. Thomas Edward Davies, OBE, RNR) was bombed and sunk by Japanese carrier aircraft east of Ceylon in position 07º21'N, 81º57'E.


Commands listed for HMS Hollyhock (K 64)

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and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.

1Lt. Thomas Edward Davies, OBE, RNR2 Nov 19409 Apr 1942 (+)

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Notable events involving Hollyhock include:

4 Dec 1940
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. H. Tichelman, RNN) conducted A/S exercises off Tobermory with HMS Hollyhock (Lt. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR) and HMS Delphinium (Cdr.(Retd.) R.L. Spalding, RN). (1)

5 Dec 1940
HrMs O 9 (Lt. H.A.W. Goossens, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Tobermory with HMS Hollyhock (Lt. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR) and HMS Tulip (Lt.Cdr. A. Wilkinson, RNR). (2)

7 Dec 1940
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. H. Tichelman, RNN) conducted A/S exercises off Tobermory with HMS Hollyhock (Lt. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR) and HMS Delphinium (Cdr.(Retd.) R.L. Spalding, RN). (1)

6 Apr 1941

Convoy HX 119

This convoy departed Halifax on 6 April 1941 in two sections, convoy HX 119A and convoy HX 119B. They merged in the morning of April 13th.

Convoy HX 119A was made up of the following merchant vessels;
Argos Hill (British, 7178 GRT, built 1922), Bendoran (British, 5567 GRT, built 1910), Bra-Kar (Norwegian, 3778 GRT, built 1928), British Consul (British (tanker), 6940 GRT, built 1924), British Tenacity (British (tanker), 8439 GRT, built 1939), Brittany (British, 4772 GRT, built 1928), Ceronia (British (tanker), 4955 GRT, built 1929), Clan MacIlwraith (British, 4839 GRT, built 1924), Cliona (British (tanker), 8375 GRT, built 1931), Curacao (British, 8269 GRT, built 1930), Cymbula (British (tanker), 8082 GRT, built 1938), Davila (British (tanker), 8053 GRT, built 1938), Dolius (British, 5507 GRT, built 1924), Dromus (British (tanker), 8036 GRT, built 1938), Goolistan (British, 5851 GRT, built 1929), Induna (British, 5086 GRT, built 1925), Kentar (British, 5878 GRT, built 1920), Lista (British, 3671 GRT, built 1920), Lobos (British, 6479 GRT, built 1921), Mangkalihat (Dutch, 8457 GRT, built 1928), Mount Helmos (Greek, 6481 GRT, built 1923), Oscilla (Dutch (tanker), 6341 GRT, built 1939), Port Auckland (British, 8789 GRT, built 1922), Port Sydney (British, 9129 GRT, built 1914), Radmanso (Swedish, 4280 GRT, built 1914), Reaveley (British, 4998 GRT, built 1940), Robert Maersk (British, 2290 GRT, built 1937), San Eliseo (British (tanker), 8042 GRT, built 1939), Schuylkill (British (tanker), 8965 GRT, built 1928), Spondilus (British (tanker), 7402 GRT, built 1927), Toorak (British (tanker), 8627 GRT, built 1927), Trevalgan (British, 5299 GRT, built 1937), Tucurinca (British, 5412 GRT, built 1926) and West Totant (British, 5628 GRT, built 1919).

On departure from Halifax convoy HX 119A was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Aurania (A/Capt. I.W. Whitehorn, RN) and the corvettes HMCS Chambly (T/A/Cdr. J.D. Prentice, RCN) and HMCS Orillia (T/Lt.Cdr. W.E.S. Briggs, RCNR). The corvettes were detached to return to Halifax the next day.

The convoy was joined by the battleship HMS Revenge (Capt. E.R. Archer, RN) around 0900Q/8.

Around 1400P/11, HMS Revenge parted company with the convoy to return to Halifax.


Convoy HX 119B was made up of the following merchant vessels;
Alphacca (British, 5759 GRT, built 1928), Barberrys (British, 5170 GRT, built 1920), Braddock (British, 6619 GRT, built 1919), Edward Blyden (British, 5003 GRT, built 1930), Gard (Norwegian (tanker), 8259 GRT, built 1938), Glaiglas (British, 4312 GRT, built 1940), Hermiston (British, 4813 GRT, built 1939), Idefjord (Norwegian, 4287 GRT, built 1921), Kars (British (tanker), 8888 GRT, built 1939), Leerdam (Dutch, 8815 GRT, built 1921), Maasdam (Dutch, 8812 GRT, built 1921), Maihar (British, 7563 GRT, built 1917), Merchant Prince (British, 5229 GRT, built 1939), Mercier (Belgian, 7556 GRT, built 1915), Peder Bogen (British (tanker), 9741 GRT, built 1925), Rio Azul (British, 4088 GRT, built 1921), San Ernesto (British (tanker), 8078 GRT, built 1939), Soekaboemi (Dutch, 7051 GRT, built 1923), Southgate (British, 4862 GRT, built 1926) and Tureby (British, 4372 GRT, built 1936).

On departure from Halifax convoy HX 119B was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Montclare (Capt.(Retd.) H.M. Spreckley, RN) and the corvettes HMCS Cobalt (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.B. Campbell, RCNR) and HMCS Collingwood (T/Lt. W. Woods, RCNR). The corvettes were detached to return to Halifax the next day.

Around 0900P/13, Convoy HX 119B merged with convoy HX 119A.


At 1215Z/14, the convoy was joined by the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. A.J.L. Phillips, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.F. Wake-Walker CB, OBE, RN).

At 1210Z/15, the armed merchant cruisers HMS Aurania and HMS Montclare parted company with convoy HX 119 (now combined).

At 1815Z/15, the destroyers HMS Havelock (Cdr. E.H. Thomas, RN) and HMS Hurricane (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Simms, RN) joined the convoy. Followed during the night of 15/16 April by the destroyers HMCS Restigouche (Cdr. H.N. Lay, OBE, RN) and HMCS Saguenay (Lt. P.E. Haddon, RCN).

At 2130Z/16, HMS Norfolk parted company with the convoy to proceed to Hvalfjord.

On the 17th, destroyer HMS Viscount (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), sloop HMS Scarborough (Lt. A.P. Northey, DSC, RN) and corvettes HMS Auricula (T/Lt. W.W. White, RNR), HMS Campanula (Lt.Cdr. R.V.E. Case, DSC and Bar, RD, RNR), HMS Hibiscus (Lt. H. Roach, RNR), HMS Pimpernel (Lt. F.H. Thornton, RNR) and HMS Rhododendron (Lt.Cdr. W.N.M. Faichney, DSO, RNR) joined the convoy.

On the 18th, destroyer HMS Rockingham (Lt. A.H.T. Johns, RN) and corvette HMS Freesia (Lt.Cdr. T.P.G. Crick, RN) joined the convoy.

On the 19th, corvette HMS Hollyhock (Lt. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR) joined the convoy

On the 20th, HMS Havelock, HMS Hurricane, HMS Restigouche and HMS Saguenay parted company with the convoy.

On the 21st, HMS Viscount and corvette HMS Freesia parted company with the convoy.

The convoy arrived in U.K. waters on 22 April.

30 Apr 1941

Convoy HX 124.

This convoy departed Halifax on 30 April 1941 for Liverpool where it arrived on 20 May 1941.

Upon departure from Halifax the convoy was made up of the following merchant ships: Aalsum (Dutch, 5418 GRT, built 1922), Alchiba (British, 4427 GRT, built 1920), Algenib (British, 5483 GRT, built 1937), Asbjorn (British, 4387 GRT, built 1935), Athelviscount (British (tanker), 8882 GRT, built 1929), Atlantian (British, 6549 GRT, built 1928), Auditor (British, 5444 GRT, built 1924), Baron Ogilvy (British, 3391 GRT, built 1926), Barrington Court (British, 4910 GRT, built 1924), Beaconstreet (British (tanker), 7467 GRT, built 1927), Botavon (British, 5848 GRT, built 1912), British Faith (British (tanker), 6955 GRT, built 1928), British Fortune (British (tanker), 4696 GRT, built 1930), British Industry (British (tanker), 4297 GRT, built 1927), British Resolution (British (tanker), 8408 GRT, built 1937), Charlton Hall (British, 5200 GRT, built 1940), Daytonian (British, 6434 GRT, built 1922), Delphinula (British (tanker), 8120 GRT, built 1939), Echodale (British (tanker), 8150 GRT, built 1941), Empire Hawk (British, 5033 GRT, built 1919), Empire Steel (British (tanker), 8138 GRT, built 1941), Gitano (British, 3956 GRT, built 1921), Harmala (British, 5730 GRT, built 1935), King Lud (British, 5224 GRT, built 1928), Kingswood (British, 5080 GRT, built 1929), Korsholm (Swedish, 2647 GRT, built 1925), Madrono (Norwegian (tanker), 5894 GRT, built 1917), Morska Wola (Polish, 3208 GRT, built 1924), Pacific Enterprise (British, 6736 GRT, built 1927), Pomella (British (tanker), 6766 GRT, built 1937), Queen City (British, 4814 GRT, built 1924), Redgate (British, 4323 GRT, built 1929), Souliotis (Greek, 4299 GRT, built 1917), Varand (British (tanker), 6023 GRT, built 1927), Vera Radcliffe (British, 5587 GRT, built 1925), Vivi (Norwegian (tanker), 6546 GRT, built 1932) and Wearwood (British, 4597 GRT, built 1930).

On departure from Halifax the convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Circassia (A/Capt. E.V. Lees, RN) and the corvettes HMCS Cobalt (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.B. Campbell, RCNR) and HMCS Collingwood (T/Lt. W. Woods, RCNR). The corvettes were detached later the same day.

On 2 May the convoy was joined by the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN). She detached from the convoy on 9 May.

On 11 May the destroyer HMS Broadway (Lt.Cdr. T. Taylor, RN) and corvettes HMS Aubretia (Lt.Cdr. V.F. Smith, RNR), HMS Hollyhock (Lt. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR) and HMS Nigella (T/Lt. T.W. Coyne, RNR) joined the convoy

On 12 May the destroyers HMS Burwell (Lt.Cdr. S.R.J. Woods, RNR), HMS Malcolm (Cdr. C.D. Howard-Johnston, DSC, RN), HMS Watchman (Lt.Cdr. E.C.L. Day, RN), corvettes HMS Heliotrope (Lt.Cdr. J. Jackson, RNR), HMS Mallow (Lt.Cdr. W.B. Piggott, RNR), HMS Violet (Lt.Cdr. K.M. Nicholson, RNR), and A/S trawlers HMS Northern Gem (Skr.Lt. W.J.V. Mullender, DSC, RNR), HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR), HMS Notts County (T/S.Lt. R.H. Hampton, RNR) and HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. M.M. Firth, RNVR) joined the convoy.

Around 0600Z/13, the destroyers HMS Scimitar (Lt. R.D. Franks, OBE, RN) and HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Roper, RN) joined the convoy.

Around 1715Z/14 the corvettes HMS Anemone (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Boys-Smith, DSO and Bar, RD, RNR), HMS Clarkia (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Jones, RNR), HMS Verbena (Lt.Cdr. D.A. Rayner, DSC, RNVR) and HMS Veronica (Lt.Cdr. (retired) D.F. White, RNR) joined the convoy.

The destroyers HMS Scimitar, HMS Malcolm, corvettes HMS Aubretia, HMS Heliotrope, HMS Hollyhock, HMS Mallow, HMS Nigella, HMS Verbena, HMS Veronica and all the A/S trawlers were detached on 14 May.

Around 1200Z/15, the tanker British Industry and the transport Trolla (Norwegian, 1598 GRT, built 1923) [from convoy SC-30] were detached to Reykjavik escorted by HMS Mallow and HMS Verbena.

HMS Circassia, HMS Watchman and HMS Burwell were detached around 1810Z/15 while on the same day the destroyers HMS Burnham (Cdr. J. Bostock, DSC, RN), HMS Leamington (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Bowerman, RN), HMS Salisbury (Lt.Cdr. H.M.R. Crichton, RN), escort destroyer HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN), minesweepers HMS Hussar ( Lt.Cdr. D.H.P. Gardiner, RN), HMS Niger ( Lt.Cdr. J.M. Bayley, DSC, RN), and catapult ship Ariguani joined the escort.

On 18 May the destroyer HMS Roxborough (Lt. V.A. Wight-Boycott, OBE, RN) joined the convoy. Also on this day HMS Leamington and HMS Anemone were detached.

On 19 May the destroyer HMS Saladin (Lt.Cdr. L.J. Dover, RN) joined the escort.

The convoy arrived in U.K. waters on 20 May 1941.

13 Oct 1941

Convoy OS 9

This convoy departed Liverpool on 13 October 1941 for Freetown where it arrived on 5 November 1941. Several merchant ships were detached en-route for other destinations.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Adjutant (1931 GRT, built 1922), Alderamin (Dutch, 7886 GRT, built 1920), Arlesford (2472 GRT, built 1922), Annavore (Norwegian, 3324 GRT, built 1921), Baluchistan (6992 GRT, built 1940), Baron Cawdor (3638 GRT, built 1935), Baron Ramsay (3650 GRT, built 1929), Brittany (4772 GRT, built 1928), City of Barcelona (5787 GRT, built 1930), City of Dublin (1095 GRT, built 1882), City of Hereford (5101 GRT, built 1927), Cornish City (4952 GRT, built 1936), Cressado (1228 GRT, built 1913), Egba (4989 GRT, built 1914), Empire Glade (7006 GRT, built 1941), Empire Glen (6327 GRT, built 1941), Fagersten (Norwegian, 2342 GRT, built 1921), Filleigh (4856 GRT, built 1928), Fjord (Norwegian, 4032 GRT, built 1914), Graiglas (4312 GRT, built 1940), Guinean (5205 GRT, built 1936), Hadleigh (5222 GRT, built 1930), Harmonides (5237 GRT, built 1920), Harpasa (5082 GRT, built 1934), Ittersum (Dutch, 5199 GRT, built 1938), Leeds City (4758 GRT, built 1927), Leerdam (8815 GRT, built 1921), Leeds City (4758 GRT, built 1927), Leerdam (Dutch, 8815 GRT, built 1921), Loch Ranza (4958 GRT, built 1934), Madras City (5082 GRT, built 1940), Marwarri (8067 GRT, built 1935), Nigerian (5423 GRT, built 1936), Ottinge (2870 GRT, built 1940), Queen Victoria (4937 GRT, built 1936), Rembrandt (5559 GRT, built 1941), Ribera (5559 GRT, built 1940), Rio Blanco (4086 GRT, built 1922), Salabangka (Dutch, 6586 GRT, built 1920), Sheaf Crown (4868 GRT, built 1929), Spero (1589 GRT, built 1922), Stad Amsterdam (Dutch, 3780 GRT, built 1920), Stanmore (4970 GRT, built 1940), Superman (tug, 359 GRT, built 1933), Talthybius (10254 GRT, built 1912), Tintern Abbey (2471 GRT, built 1939), Treworlas (4692 GRT, built 1922) and Willemsplein (Dutch, 5489 GRT, built 1910).

Escort was initially provided by the following warships; Free French sloop / minesweeper Commandant Domine (13 – 24 October), sloops Egret (A/Capt. E.M. Haes, RN) (14 October – 2 November), Fowey (Lt.Cdr. R.M. Aubrey, RN) (14 October – 1 November), Leith (Lt.Cdr. E.C. Hulton, RN) (14 October – 1 November), Banff (Lt.Cdr. P.S. Evans, RN), Fishguard (Lt.Cdr. H.L. Pryse, RN) and the corvettes HMS Hollyhock (Lt. T.E. Davies, RNR) (14 October – 5 November), HMS Stonecrop (A/Lt.Cdr. J.V. Brock, RCNVR) (14 October – 1 November).

When approaching Freetown the following corvettes joined on 31 October; HMS Burdock (T/Lt. H.J. Fellows, SANF(V)), Clover (Lt.Cdr. F.A. Shaw, RNR) and Nigella (T/Lt. L.J. Simpson, RNR). They remained with the convoy until it arrived at Freetown on 5 November.

On 24 October 1941 the Gibraltar (and Lisbon) section of the convoy split off. This were nine merchant vessels escorted by HMS Fowey, HMS Leith and HMS Stonecrop. The destroyer HMS Wild Swan (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, RN) departed Gibraltar on 25 October to join the convoy on the 27th. Two more destroyers, HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNN) departed Gibraltar in the morning of 28 October and they joined the convoy in the afternoon of the next day. The convoy arrived at Gibraltar on 1 November. The previous day the ships destined for Lisbon had split off.

9 Nov 1941
HMS Severn (Lt.Cdr. A.N.G. Campbell, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Freetown together with HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Poe, RN), HMS Bridgewater (Cdr. (Retd.) N.W.H. Weekes, OBE, RN), HMS Hollyhock (Lt. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR) and HMS Turcoman (T/Lt. R.F. Pretty, RNVR). (3)

28 Nov 1941

Convoy WS 12Z.

[Part from the Freetown to Durban.]

This convoy departed Freetown on 28 November 1941 and arrived at Durban on 18 December 1941.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships / transports; Abbekerk (Dutch, 7906 GRT, built 1939), Adrastus (British, 7905 GRT, built 1923), Aorangi (British, 17491 GRT, built 1924), Arundel Castle (British, 19118 GRT, built 1921), Capetown Castle (British, 27002 GRT, built 1938), Deucalion (British, 7516 GRT, built 1930), Duchess of Bedford (British, 20123 GRT, built 1928), Empire Star (British, 13479 GRT, built 1935), Empress of Asia (British, 16909 GRT, built 1913), Empress of Japan (British, 26032 GRT, built 1930), Mataroa (British, 12390 GRT, built 1922), Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931), Narkunda (British, 16632 GRT, built 1920), Orduna (British, 15507 GRT, built 1914), Rimutaka (British, 16576 GRT, built 1923) and Sussex (British, 11062 GRT, built 1937).

On departure from Freetown the convoy was escorted by the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN), escort destroyers HMS Dulverton (Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, OBE, RN) and HMS Southwold (Cdr. C.T. Jellicoe, DSC, RN), sloop HMS Falmouth (Cdr. U.H.R. James, RN) and the corvettes HMS Hollyhock (Lt. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR) and HMS Verbena (Lt.Cdr. D.A. Rayner, DSC, RNVR).

The convoy was to proceed to Durban via Porte Noire.

In the afternoon of 2 December 1941, HMS Royal Sovereign, HMS Dulverton and HMS Southwold left the convoy to proceed ahead to Porte Noire where they arrived in the morning of 5 December and then took on board fuel. They departed again in the evening to rejoin the convoy which they did at 0600/6.

HMS Falmouth, HMS Hollyhock and HMS Verbena then proceeded to Porte Noire to fuel. They rejoined the convoy at 0630/7.

At 0700/14, while in approximate position 36°00'S, 17°00'E, HMS Dulverton and HMS Southwold detached to refuel at Simonstown. At 1400/15, while in approximate position 37°00'S, 23°00'E, the convoy was joined by the corvettes HMS Aster (Lt. W.L. Smith, RNR) and HMS Marguerite (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Blundell, RNR) from Simonstown. Half an hour later HMS Hollyhock and HMS Verbena were then detached to Simonstown.

At 0001/18 HMS Royal Sovereign and HMS Milford were detached and proceeded ahead of the convoy to Durban where they arrived at 0600 hours the same day.

The remainder of the convoy arrived later the same day.

9 Dec 1941

Convoy WS 14.

This convoy was formed off Oversay on 9 December 1941.

On forming up the convoy was made up of the following (troop) transports; Abosso (British, 11330 GRT, built 1935), Andes (British, 25689 GRT, built 1939), Athlone Castle (British, 25564 GRT, built 1936), Cameronia (British, 16297 GRT, built 1920), City of Pretoria (British, 8049 GRT, built 1937), Clan Cameron (British, 7243 GRT, built 1937), Duchess of Atholl (British, 20119 GRT, built 1928), Durban Castle (British, 17388 GRT, built 1938), Empire Condor (British, 7773 GRT, built 1940), Empire Curlew (British, 7101 GRT, built 1941), Empire Egret (British, 7169 GRT, built 1939), Empire Oriole (British, 6535 GRT, built 1941), Empire Peregrine (British, 6440 GRT, built 1941), Empire Pintail (British, 7773 GRT, built 1940), Empire Widgeon (British, 6737 GRT, built 1940), Empress of Australia (British, 21833 GRT, built 1914), Esperance Bay (British, 14204 GRT, built 1921), Highland Monarch (British, 14139 GRT, built 1928), Highland Princess (British, 14133 GRT, built 1930), Orcades (British, 23456 GRT, built 1937), Orestes (British, 7748 GRT, built 1926), Oronsay (British, 20043 GRT, built 1925), Reina del Pacifico (British, 17702 GRT, built 1931), Scythia (British, 19761 GRT, built 1920), Strathallan (British, 23722 GRT, built 1938), Troilus (British, 7422 GRT, built 1921) and Warwick Castle (British, 20107 GRT, built 1930).

The aircraft transport HMS Engadine (Cdr. W.T. Fitzgerald, RD, RNR) was also part of the convoy.

On forming up the convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser Cilicia, AA ship HMS Ulster Queen (Capt.(Retd.) D.S. McGrath, RN) and the destroyers HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, DSO, RAN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, RN), HMS Witherington (Lt. R. Horncastle, RN), HMS Beverley (Lt.Cdr. J. Grant, RN), HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN), HMS Newark (Lt.Cdr. R.H.W. Atkins, RN), HMS Sherwood (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Badsworth (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN), HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN) and HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Hayes, DSO, RN).

In the afternoon of the 11th, HMS Newark parted company with the convoy due to damaged fuel tanks.

Bad weather was experienced on the 11th, and late in the evening, the Empire Oriole had to heave to in order to secure tanks that were carried as deck cargo. She did not rejoin the convoy and proceeded independently to Freetown arriving there on 23 December.

At 0415N/12, HMS Ulster Queen parted company with the convoy in approximate position 49°08'N, 19°08'W.

Later that morning, HMS Lancaster parted company with the convoy in approximate position 47°50'N, 20°42'W.

Around midnight during the night of 12/13 December, Westcott, HMS Witherington, HMS Beverley, HMS Newark and HMS Sherwood parted company with the convoy in approximate position 41°46'N, 22°51'W.

Around 0940Z/13, the battleship HMS Ramillies (Capt. D.N.C. Tufnell, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Vanquisher (Cdr. N.V. Dickinson, DSC, RN), HMS Volunteer (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN) and HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) joined the convoy in approximate position 44°00'N, 22°16'W coming from Milford Haven (HMS Gurkha came from Plymouth).

At the time of joining HMAS Nestor, HMS Foxhound, HMS Badsworth, HMS Beaufort and HMS Croome were supposed to be with the convoy but they had lost touch with the convoy in the heavy weather conditions. All were in touch trough V/S except for HMS Croome. HMAS Nestor, HMS Foxhound and HMS Gurkha were then ordered to proceed to Gibraltar. HMS Croome was ordered to join them the next day. Vanquisher, Volunteer, Witch, HMS Badsworth and HMS Beaufort remained with the convoy.

At 1800Z/13, in approximate position 42°38'N, 22°40'W HMS Badsworth and HMS Beaufort were detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada, Azores.

Also on 13 December (around 0500 hours) the Scythia left the convoy due to ' not being under control '. She did not rejoin the convoy and arrived independently at Freetown on 23 December.

At 2200Z/14, in approximate position, 36°07'N, 23°24'W, HMS Vanquisher was detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada, Azores. She was detached earlier then intended due to condenser trouble.

At 0400Z/15, in approximate position 35°02'N, 23°23'W, HMS Volunteer and HMS Witch were detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada, Azores.

At 1030Z/15, HMS Badsworth and HMS Beaufort rejoined the convoy in approximate position 34°03'N, 23°24'W.

At 0930Z/18, the destroyer HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Poe, RN) and escort destroyer HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, RN) joined the convoy in approximate position 18°50'N, 21°52'W.

At 0910Z/19, the destroyers HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN) and HMS Wild Swan (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, RN) joined the convoy in approximate position 14°30'N, 19°17'W.

The convoy arrived at Freetown on 21 December 1941.


The convoy departed Freetown on 25 December 1941 for South Africa.

The convoy sailed with the same ships as with it had arrived except for HMS Engadine

On departure from Freetown the convoy was escorted by the battleship HMS Ramillies, destroyers HMS Brilliant, HMS Vimy (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN), escort destroyers HMS Beaufort, HMS Hurworth and the sloop HMS Bridgewater (A/Cdr.(Retd.) H.F.G. Leftwich, RN).

At 1100Z/26, HMS Vimy developed engine trouble and fell behind. She rejoined the convoy at 0600Z/27.

At 1800Z/26, in approximate position 03°02'N, 12°25'W, HMS Brilliant parted company with the convoy, taking the troopship Abosso with her. They were to proceed to Takoradi.

At 0400Z/27, the Orestes fell out of line with engine trouble. As by noon she was not in sight HMS Vimy was ordered to search for her. She reported at 1800Z/27 that she had found the Orestes which was now able to proceed at 14 knots. HMS Vimy was then ordered to return to Freetown. The Orestes then proceeded to Capetown unescorted.

At 1900Z/27, HMS Bridgewater was detached to proceed ahead to fuel from the RFA tanker Rapidol (2648 GRT, built 1917).

At 0600Z/29, HMS Beaufort was detached to fuel from the Rapidol.

At 1100Z/30, HMS Hurworth was detached to fuel from the Rapidol but she could not find the tanker and rejoined the convoy at 1930Z/29. Fortunately the tanker was then sighted on the convoy's beam and she was able to fuel after all. On completion of fuelling she started a search for an unidentified ship that had been sighted earlier by the Rapidol.

At 1320/30, HMS Beaufort rejoined the convoy.

At 1700/30, HMS Bridgewater rejoined the convoy.

At 1845A/31, HMS Hurworth rejoined the convoy. The ship reported by the Rapidol had not been sighted.

At 0100Z/3, the Andes was detached to proceed ahead of the convoy to Capetown where politicians were to be landed. She later joined the Durban section of the convoy.

In the morning of the 4th, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Derbyshire (Capt.(Retd.) C.C. Bell, DSO, RN) joined the convoy in approximate position 31°45'S, 14°00'E.

At 1600Z/4, in approximate position, 33°12'S, 15°45'E, HMS Derbyshire parted company with the convoy taking the Durban section of the convoy with her. The Durban section was made up of the Andes, Athlone Castle, Cameronia, Duchess of Atholl, Durban Castle, Esperance Bay, Highland Princess, Oronsay, Reina del Pacifico, Scythia and Strathallan.

The Capetown section of the convoy, made up of the City of Pretoria, Clan Cameron, Empire Condor, Empire Curlew, Empire Egret, Empire Oriole, Empire Peregrine, Empire Pintail, Empire Widgeon, Empress of Australia, Highland Monarch, Orcades, Troilus and Warwick Castle arrived at Capetown early in the morning escorted by HMS Ramillies, HMS Beaufort and HMS Hurworth. The escort destroyers then proceeded to Simonstown. The Orestes arrived later in the morning.

The Durban section was joined in the morning of the 6th by the light cruiser HMS Ceres (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H.W.V. Stephenson, RN) in approximate position 35°18'S, 23°32'E.

In the morning of the 8th the convoy arrived at Durban in three sections in order to avoid congestion in the swept channel. Each of the escorts, HMS Ceres, HMS Bridgewater and HMS Derbyshire took one section under their orders.


On 9 January 1942, the Capetown section, made up of the City of Pretoria, Clan Cameron, Empire Condor, Empire Curlew, Empire Egret, Empire Oriole, Empire Peregrine, Empire Pintail, Empire Widgeon, Empress of Australia, Highland Monarch, Orcades, Troilus and Warwick Castle. An additional transport, the Malancha (British, 8124 GRT, built 1937), joined the convoy.

The Orestes was also to have joined the convoy but she was delayed, probably due to repairs, and she sailed later with orders to overtake the convoy.

The convoy was escorted by the battleship HMS Ramillies and the corvettes HMS Hollyhock (Lt. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR) and HMS Verbena (Lt.Cdr. D.A. Rayner, DSC, RNVR).

In the early morning of the 10th both corvettes parted company to return to Capetown.

On the 13th the convoy was joined by the Durban section made up of the transports City of Canterbury (British, 8331 GRT, built 1922), Dilwara (British, 11080 GRT, built 1936), Duchess of Atholl, Dunera (British, 11162 GRT, built 1937), Esperance Bay, Nova Scotia (British, 6796 GRT, built 1926) and Thysville (Belgian, 8351 GRT, built 1922). They were escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Corfu (Capt.(Retd.) J.P. Landon, RN).

Also the Orestes caught up with the convoy off Durban and joined.

The Orcades of the Capetown section parted company with the convoy and entered Durban.

The Duchess of Athol soon developed engine trouble and returned to Durban. Her troops were transferred to the Andes and this ship then departed Durban on 14 January 1942, escorted by HMS Ceres to overtake the convoy which Andes did early on the 16th. HMS Ceres then set course to return to Durban where she arrived on the 18th.

Early on the 19th, rendezvous was made with the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) which then took the ships bound for Singapore with her forming convoy DM 2. These were the City of Canterbury, City of Pretoria, Dunera, Empress of Australia, Malancha, Troilus and Warwick Castle. They then set course for Port T (Addu Atoll).

At 1000C/20, the convoy was joined by the light cruiser HMS Colombo (Capt. C.C.A. Allen, RN) which had the transports Mendoza (British (former French), 8233 GRT, built 1919) and Salween (British, 7063 GRT, built 1937) with her. HMS Ramillies then parted company and proceeded to Mombasa arriving there on 21 January 1942.

The convoy then split into two more sections; convoy WS 14A was to proceed to the Gulf of Aden where it was to disperse. It was made up of the Empire Egret, Empire Oriole, Empire Pintail, Highland Morarch, Mendoza, Orestes and Salween. HMS Colombo was escorting these ships. The convoy was dispersed on 26 January 1942 in the Gulf of Aden. The Thysville proceeded independently to Aden as she had straddled from the convoy not long after it had departed Durban due to bad coal having been supplied.

HMS Corfu took the remainder of the ships with her towards Bombay. This convoy was then known as convoy WS 14B and was made up of the Andes, Clan Cameron, Dilwara, Empire Condor, Empire Curlew, Empire Peregrine, Empire Widgeon, Esperance Bay and Nova Scotia.

At 1930E/25, the Clan Cameron, Empire Curlew, Empire Peregrine, Empire Widgeon parted company with the convoy to proceed to Basra independently.

The remainder of Convoy WS 14B arrived at Bombay on 28 January 1942. (4)

28 Feb 1942

Convoy SU 1.

This convoy departed Colombo on 28 February 1942 and arrived at Fremantle on 15 March 1942.

This convoy was made up of the troopships / transports; City of London (British, 8956 GRT, built 1907), City of Paris (British, 10902 GRT, built 1922), Eastern Prince (British, 10926 GRT, built 1929), Egra (British, 5108 GRT, built 1911), Empire Glade (British, 7006 GRT, built 1941), Esperance Bay (British, 13837 GRT, built 1922), Gorgon (British, 3533 GRT, built 1933), Industria (British, 4850 GRT, built 1940), Kosciuszko (Polish, 6852 GRT, built 1915), Madras City (British, 5080 GRT, built 1940), Mathura (British, 8890 GRT, built 1920), Norden (Norwegian (tanker), 8440 GRT, built 1931), Penrith Castle (British, 6369 GRT, built 1929), Pundit (British, 5305 GRT, built 1919), Silverteak (British, 6770 GRT, built 1930), Silverwillow (British, 6373 GRT, built 1930) and Trevilley (British, 5296 GRT, built 1940).

The convoy was escorted by the British heavy cruiser HMS Cornwall (Capt. P.C.W. Manwaring, RN, the British destroyer HMS Express (Lt.Cdr. F.J. Cartwright, RN) and the British corvette HMS Hollyhock (Lt. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR). On 1 March the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN), armed merchant cruisers HMAS Manoora (A/Capt. A.H. Spurgeon, RAN) and the destroyers HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr. M.J. Clark, DSC, RAN) and HMAS Vampire (Cdr. W.T.A. Moran, RAN) joined in approximate position 05.00'N, 79.00'E coming from Trincomalee.

HMS Express and HMS Holyhock returned to Colombo on 3 March 1942. They most likely had parted company with the convoy when the ships coming from Trincomalee joined the convoy escort.

At 1800F/4, HMS Royal Sovereign, HMAS Nizam and HMAS Vampire parted company with the convoy to return to Trincomalee.

The convoy arrived at Fremantle on 15 March 1942 except for HMAS Manoora which was detached escorting the merchant vessels Empire Glade, Madras City, Mathura and Silver Widow to Adelaide where they arrived on 22 March 1942. (5)

29 Mar 1942

Operations by the Eastern Fleet from 29 March to 13 April 1942.
Enemy air attacks on Colombo and later Trincomalee and the loss of HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall on 5 April 1942 and HMS Hermes, HMAS Vampire on 9 April 1942.

Dispositions of the Eastern Fleet on 29 March 1942.

On 29 March 1942 the disposition of the Eastern Fleet was as follows;
At Colombo:
Aircraft Carrier HMS Formidable (Capt. A.W.LaT. Bisset, RN), heavy cruisers HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) (refitting) and HMS Cornwall (Capt. P.C.W. Manwaring, RN), light cruisers HMS Enterprise (Capt. J.C.A. Annesley, DSO, RN), HMS Dragon (Capt. R.J. Shaw, MBE, RN) and HMS Caledon (A/Capt. H.J. Haynes, DSO, DSC, RN), the destroyers HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.D. Pugsley, RN), HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN), HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, DSO and Bar, RAN), HMS Hotspur (Lt. T.D. Herrick, DSC, RN), HMS Arrow (Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN) and HMS Express (Lt.Cdr. F.J. Cartwright, RN).

At Trincomalee:
The flagship of the Eastern Fleet, the battleship HMS Warspite (Capt. F.E.P. Hutton, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN), the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes (Capt. R.F.J. Onslow, DSC, MVO, RN), light cruisers HMS Emerald (Capt. F.C. Flynn, RN) and HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck (Cdr. E.J. van Holte, RNN), the destroyer HMAS Vampire (Cdr. W.T.A. Moran, RAN). HMS Warspite departed Trincomalee this day and arrived at Colombo in the evening. HMS Hermes and HMAS Vampire also departed Trincomalee on the 29th.

At Addu Atoll;
The battleships HMS Resolution (Capt. A.R. Halfhide, CBE, RN , flying the flag of A/Vice-Admiral A.U. Willis, DSO, RN, second in command Eastern Fleet), HMS Ramillies (Capt. D.N.C. Tufnell, DSC, RN), HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN), HMS Revenge (Capt. L.V. Morgan, CBE, MVO, DSC, RN) the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral D.W. Boyd, CBE, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMAS Napier (Capt. S.H.T. Arliss, DSO, RN), HMAS Norman (Cdr. H.M. Burrell, RAN), HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr. M.J. Clark, DSC, RAN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. R.D.H.S. Pankhurst, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Griffin (Capt. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO, RN), HMS Decoy (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. W. Harmsen, RNN).

The Japanese had been operating in the Indian Ocean in early March and more attacks were expected in this area by the Allies. The most likely target would be the island of Ceylon and the harbours of Colombo and Trincomalee.

30 and 31 March 1942.


Admiral Somerville therefore planned to concentrate the Eastern Fleet on the late afternoon / early evening of 31 March 1942 in position 04°40’N, 81°00’E. The fleet would then be divided in two groups; Force A (the fast division) was made up of the flagships, battleship HMS Warspite, both fleet carriers, HMS Indomitable and HMS Formidable. They were escorted by the cruisers HMS Cornwall, HMS Enterprise, HMS Emerald and six destroyers; HMAS Napier, HMAS Nestor, HMS Paladin, HMS Panther, HMS Hotspur and HMS Foxhound. This force would try to intercept the enemy and deliver a night air attack on the enemy with their carriers as the main target.

Force A would be covered by the slower Force B which was made up of the battleships HMS Resolution, HMS Ramillies, HMS Royal Sovereign and the light carrier HMS Hermes. Escort to these ships was proviced by the cruisers HMS Dragon, HMS Caledon, HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck and a total of eight destroyers HMS Griffin, HMS Decoy, HMAS Norman, HMS Fortune, HrMs Isaac Sweers, HMS Arrow and one of the old destroyers that had managed to escape from the China station also joined, this was HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN). They were to remain about 20 nautical miles to the west of Force A. If Force A encountered a superior enemy force the would withdraw towards Force B.

At 1400/30 the ships mentioned earlier at the top of this article departed Colombo. HMS Hotspur and HMAS Nestor carried out an A/S sweep of the searched channel before Force A sailed.

By 1600/31 the fleet had made the pre-arranged rendez-vous and formed up. It then proceeded northwards. After dark, to avoid detection from the air by the enemy, Force A altered course to 080° and proceeded at 15 knots until about 0230 hours when it was thought they would be in the estimated position from where the enemy would fly off their aircraft for the expected attack on Ceylon. If nothing was sighted or located by 0230/1, Force A was to turn back to the south-west and to withdraw outside the enemy’s air search area. Force B was to act as a supporting force for Force A, keeping 20 miles to the west of it and confirming to the movements of Force A through the night. This procedure was carried out as planned during the night of 31 March / 1 April but nothing was seen or located.

In the late afternoon / early evening of 31 March HMS Indomitable briefly separated from the fleet for flying operations during which she was escorted by HMS Emerald. From 2100/31 to 0600/1 a search was carried out, to a depth of 120 miles from 050° to 110°, by three A.S.V. fitted Albacores from HMS Formidable. Also two Albacores fitted with long-range tanks were kept standing by for shadowing purposes if required. One of the Albacores crash landed on HMS Formidable upon return at 0340/1.

1 April 1942.

At 0940 hours HMS Decoy reported the breakdown of her main feed pumps. She was detached to Colombo to effect repairs.

Around noon several of the destroyers reported submerged contacts. HMS Scout reported sighting a periscope. The fleet took avoiding action in each case, but nothing further transpired from these contact which are now considered to be non-sub.

At 1400 hours, HMS Scout, one of the oldest destroyers of the Royal Navy with a short enducance, was detached to oil at sea from RFA Appleleaf (5892 GRT, built 1917, Master E. Mills) in position 04°00’N, 80°00’E. Upon completion of oiling HMS Scout was to proceed to position 05°40’N, 81°08’E by 0800/2. RFA Appleleaf and her escort, HMS Shoreham (Cdr. E. Hewitt, RD, RNR), were to proceed towards a new waiting position 05°00’N, 80°30’E.

In the afternoon, around 1420 hours, HMS Dorsetshire joined Force A. This cruiser had been refitting at Colombo but this refit was cut short to enable her to take part in this operation. Air searches were carried out from Ceylon as the days before but they sighted nothing of the enemy. Also from 1430/1800 hours a search was carried out by aircraft from HMS Indomitable between 142° to 207° to a depth of 215 miles. Admiral Somerville decided to carry out the same sweep to the north-east as had been done the previous night. Again nothing was seen and Force A made rendez-vous with Force B at daybreak on 2 April 1942.

2 April 1942.

At 0800 hours the destroyers HMS Fortune and HMAS Vampire were detached to fuel from RFA Appleleaf in position 05°00’N, 80°30’E. and an Albacore was ordered to search for HMS Scout and order her to rejoin the fleet. Shortly after noon the fleet sighted RFA Appleleaf, HMS Shoreham, HMS Fortune and HMAS Vampire. The last two ships then rejoined the fleet while the tanker and it’s escort were ordered to proceed towards Colombo at 1200/3.

During the day the Eastern Fleet cruised in an area about 50 miles further to the west then the previous day to avoid being detected by enemy submarines that had been reported. Throughout the day several of the escorting destroyers obtained unconfirmed echoes. Two more destroyers fuelled during the afternoon, HMAS Napier and HMS Arrow took in fuel from HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall.

As the enemy had not shown herself by 2100 hours, Admiral Somerville decided to proceed to Addu Atoll to fuel and to take on fresh water as the R-class battleships were running out of this as they had been unable to top up at Addu Atoll before they sailed.

3 April 1942.

At 0520 hours, the destroyer HMS Fortune was detached to search for survivors from the merchant vessel Glensheil (9415 GRT, built 1924) that had been torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-7 in position 00°48’S, 78°35’E at 0230 hours. HMS Fortune picked up 88 survivors and then proceeded to Addu Atoll where she arrived at 1130/4.

As at this time Admiral Somerville felt confident that something must have held up the Japanese or that their intentions were incorrectly appreciated. At 0940 hours, he sent HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall to Colombo. The former to continue her refit and the latter to act as escort for the Australian troop convoy SU 4. HMS Hermes and the destroyer HMAS Vampire were also detached but to Trincomalee as HMS Hermes was to prepare for the upcoming operation ‘Ironclad’, the attack on Madagascar. HMS Hermes and HMAS Vampire arrived at Trincomalee on the 4th.

Late in the morning three of the destroyers of the screen oiled from the battleships; HMAS Norman from HMS Warspite, HMS Griffin from HMS Revenge and HMS Foxhound from HMS Royal Sovereign.

At 1820 hours Force A proceeded ahead to Addu Atoll at 19 knots followed by Force B at 15 knots. Force A arrived at Addu Atoll at 1200/4. Force B at 1500/4.

4 April 1942.

In the early morning hours, and while approaching Addu Atoll, a simulated air strike was carried out on Force B by aircraft from HMS Indomitable and HMS Formidable. One aircraft crashed into the sea, it’s crew was picked up by the Dutch AA-cruiser Jacob van Heemskerck. A second simulated air attack was made on Force A later in the morning.

At 1630 hours, Admiral Somerville received a report that a large enemy force was in position 00°40’N, 83°10’E at 1605/F. Enemy course was 315°. Shortly afterwards this report was confirmed by another report in which they gave an enemy course of 330°. This positioned the enemy in a position 155° from Dondra Head, 360 miles, the distance from Addu Atoll being 085°, 600 miles. There was no indication about the composition of this force.

The condition of the Eastern Fleet at Addu Atoll at that time was as follows; Owning to the limited number of oilers available, the vessels comprising Force A had taken about half their fuel and Force B had not yet commenced fuelling. In addition the ‘R’-class battleships were very short of water which had to be taken in before they could sail. This meant that Force A could sail immediately, minus HMS Emerald and HMS Enterprise. These cruisers could sail shortly after midnight. Force B could not leave until 0700 hours the following morning at the earliest.

It appeared that the enemy’s probable plan was as follows. All the evidence supported Admiral Somerville’s original appreciation that the enemy would attack Colombo (and possibly Trincomalee) with carrier borne aircraft either before dawn or shortly afterwards and would return to the carriers in a position about 150 miles south-east of Ceylon. On completion the whole force would then withdraw to the east. The enemy’s reported position made it apparent that this attack was to be made on the morning of 5 April 1942.

Admiral Somerville considered his possible courses of action were as follows: 1) Force A, less HMS Emerald and HMS Enterprise to proceed immediately at best speed to the area to the south of Ceylon and to be joined there by HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall coming from Colombo and attack any enemy force located. 2) Delay the sailing of Force A until HMS Emerald and HMS Enterprise, valuable units with their strong torpedo armament, had completed refuelling and sail about midnight. Force B could sail in the morning of the 5th and follow astern to act as a supporting force. 3) Delay the sailing of Force A until both force could leave together on the morning of the 5th. 4) Force A and Force B would remain at Addu Atoll and leave the RAF to deal with the enemy attack.

The choise Admiral Somerville made was governed by the following considerations: 1) First and foremost the total defence of the Indian Ocean and it’s vital lines of communication depend on the existence of the Eastern Fleet. The longer this fleet remained ‘in being’ the longer it would limit and check the enemy’s advances against Ceylon and further west. This major policy of retaining ‘a fleet in being’, already approved by Their Lordships, was, in Admiral Somerville’s opinion, paramount. 2) The only hope of dealing the enemy an affective blow was by means of a carrier borne air striking force preferably at night. To operate both carriers escorted by HMS Warspite out of supporting distance of the ‘R’-class battleships would offer the enemy an opportunity to cripple our only offensive weapon. Admiral Somerville considered it a cardinal point in any operation the Force A should not proceed out of the supporting distance from Force B unless it could be presumed that that enemy capital ships would not be encountered. 3) No matter what course of action Admiral Somerville would take the enemy force could not be intercepted either before or during the attack on Ceylon on the morning of the 5th. The only hope was that the air striking force from Ceylon might inflict damage to the enemy so that the Eastern Fleet could ‘finish them off’, or that the enemy attack on Ceylon would be delayed 24 hours.

Admiral Somerville therefore decided to adopt ‘plan 2’. So he sailed Force A including both E-class cruisers at midnight and ordered Force B to proceed as early as possible the following morning.

Admiral Somerville therefore instructed HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall to sail from Colombo and to make rendez-vous with Force A at 1600/5 in position 00°58’N, 77°36’E. The position of this rendez-vous was based on their expected time of departure from Colombo and estimated as being the earliest possible time at which they could cross the track of Force A, taking into consideration that HMS Dorsetshire had resumed her refit and was at extended notice. Admiral Somerville considered that the course to be steered should take them well clear of any enemy forces operating in the vicinity. Actually these instructions had been anticipated by the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet and these two cruisers, at his discretion, sailed at 2300/4 for Addu Atoll. On receipt of the signal from Admiral Somerville the Deputy Commander-in-Chief amended his instructions accordingly at 0409/5.

5 April 1942.

Force A sailed from Addu Atoll at 0015 hours and proceeded 070° at 18 knots towards a position which would bring it 250 miles south of Ceylon by dawn on the 6th. Shortly before departure the destroyer HMS Hotspur conducted an A/S search of the entrance to Addu Atoll.

During the night Admiral Somerville received reports from the Catalina reconnaissance aircraft on patrol from Ceylon of an enemy destroyer in position 01°59’N, 82°20’E, course 315°, speed 20 knots; six enemy destroyers in position 02°54’N, 82°10’E, course 325°, speed 21 knots; and at 0701 hours a report of one battleship, two cruisers an four other ships in position 195°, Dondra Head, 110 miles. Later this message was subsequently amplified to the effect that the vessels previously reported were definitely hostile and consisted of two battleships, two cruisers and destroyers.

At about 0825 hours an air raid on shipping and harbour facilities at Colombo was commenced in which some 75 aircraft were taking part. These were later reported to be mainly Navy ‘O’ fighters, armed with one bomb each. This enemy force withdrew from Colombo before 0900 hours and was seen by several merchant ships to the south-west of Ceylon probably returning to the carriers. In several cases these merchant were machine gunned.

From 0645 hours an air A/S patrol was maintained ahead of the fleet. HMS Indomitable also sent four Fulmars to commence a search to the eastward. This search covered the area between the arcs 055° to 105° to a depth of 215 miles. It proved negative except for the sighting of an enemy seaplane at 0855 hours, 076°, 150 miles from Force A. This suggested that the enemy was carrying out reconnaissance in a south-westerly direction by means of cruiser aircraft, or a seaplane carrier, in a position 70 miles of the main enemy force. There was no indication that this aircraft sighted any of our surface forces or our air search.

Between 0702 and 1145 hours, Admiral Somerville received reports of battleships in approximate positions 03°55’N, 80°40’E, steering 290° at 0648 hours, steering 120° at 0730 hours, and at 1004 hours in position 04°00’N, 80°25’E steering 282°. This suggested that the battleships were making time while the carriers recovered their aircraft. The estimated position of HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall at this time was 150 miles from the enemy and opening.

At 1327 hours a mutilated ‘Shad’ signal was received from what was thought to be Colombo but was identified half an hour later as coming from HMS Dorsetshire whose position was estimated as being 037°, 90 miles from Force A at 1400 hours. No contact could be established.

At 1344 hours an enemy air formation was detected by RD/F, 030°, 84 miles from Force A. This had faded after five minutes and it later it became clear that this was the enemy attacking the Dorsetshire and Cornwall. At 1552 hours, a reconnaissance aircraft from Force A, reported wreckage in position 02°08’N, 78°08’E.

The destroyer HMS Panther was then detached to search but was recalled about one hour later when a reconnaissance aircraft from Force A reported a force of 5 ‘unknown’ ships in position 03°38’N, 78°18’E at 100 hours. There was no indication of the course or speed of the enemy but it could be either a force previously unreported or the force previously and last reported 1004 hours.

No relief shadowers were however sent off by the Rear-Admiral aircraft carriers as soon s the report was received and Admiral Somerville omitted to obtain confirmation that this had been done. At 1700 hours, Admiral Somerville, received a report from Ceylon that there were indications of enemy aircraft carriers steering 230° at 24 knots from an unknown position at 1400 hours. This was thought to be subsequent to the attack on our 8” cruisers and Admiral Somerville’s deductions from this enemy moves were as follows. If the enemy held on this course they would at 0400 be in a position to deliver a night attack on Addu Atoll. This seemed quite a possible course of action. In any case it was necessary for Force A to keep clear to the southward and for Force B (estimated to be 135 miles astern of Force A) to steer to the southward so that Force A and B could close for supporting action at daylight the following morning (April 6th). It was also necessary for Force B to steer to the southward to keep clear of the enemy carrier force should it be proceeding to attack Addu Atoll.

At 1726 hours, therefore, Force A altered course to 210° at 18 knots and a signal was made to Vice-Admiral second-in-Command and to HMS Dorsetshire to steer south, although at this time Admiral Somerville feared about the fate of the two heavy cruisers. As he had received no signal from them that they had been attacked he thought it possible they had escaped and maintained W/T silence.

At 1800 hours Admiral Somerville received a signal from the Rear-Admiral Aircraft Carriers, stating that a reconnaissance aircraft reported the estimated enemy position as 020°, 120 miles at 1710 hours. This position was very close to the previous position reported at 1600 hours. The course of the enemy had not been given in either of these reports but the positions fitted in well with the course received earlier (230°).

At 1817 hours, a further signal was received from the Rear-Admiral Aircraft Carriers, adjusting the 1600 hours position of the enemy’s force, amplifying it to include two carriers and three unknown vessels and giving the course north-west. This was the first indication Admiral Somerville had of the enemy now proceeding to the north-west. He immediately ordered force A to alter course to 315° and instructed the Vice-Admiral, second-in-Command to conform. These movements had to object of keeping Force A within night air striking distance of the enemy force, trusting to an A.S.V. (airborne surface vessel radar) search to locate the enemy and to bring Force B within supporting distance should it be necessary to retire in that direction. A dawn rendez-vous was arranged with Force B in approximate position 03°00’N, 75°00’E.

As no news had been received of HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall it was assumed they had been sunk.

At 1930 hours a night search with A.S.V. aircraft was commenced to cover the sector 345° to 030° to a depth of 180 nautical miles. Northing was located on this search.

6 April 1942.

From 2100/5 to 0600/6 further A.S.V. searches were carried out to cover the sector 020° to 080° to a depth of 200 miles. These searches also failed to make any contact with the enemy but reported that Force B was 220°, 25 miles from Force A at 0400 hours.

At 0615 hours, Force A altered course to 135° and sighted Force B ten minutes later. By 0720 hours the Fleet was formed up and course was altered to 090°.

Whilst no furher information had been received regarding the enemy’s movements nothing had occurred to diminish the possibility of the enemy’s being in the vicinity of Addu Atoll, either to attack it by air this morning or to await the return of the Eastern Fleet.

Admiral Somerville intended to keep clear of the superior enemy forces by day. It was still his intention to get into a position to attack them with a night air striking force on their possible return from at Addu Atoll area, and also rescue the possible survivors from HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall. He therefore steered east and at 1115 hours course was altered to south-east in the direction of the wreckage that had been reported the previous evening. During the morning reports came in from merchant ships being attacked in the Bay of Bengal. There must be a second Japanese force operating there.

At 1300 hours HMS Enterprise, HMS Paladin and HMS Panther were detached to search for survivors in the vicinity of the wreckage position. Air search was provided to assist and fighter escort was sent to cover the operation. These ships were successful in picking up a total of 1122 survivors from both heavy cruisers. They rejoined the fleet at noon the following day. At 1800/6, when about 50 miles from the wreckage position course was reversed and the fleet retired to the north-west. All-round air searches were carried out to a depth of 200 miles but again nothing was seen.

At about 1400 hours a signal was received from the C-in-C, Ceylon estimating that a strong Japanese force was still somewhere between Addu Atoll and Colombo. Admiral Somerville therefore decided to keep clear of the Addu area until daylight on the 7th.

7 April 1942.

At 0200 hours the Eastern Fleet altered course to the west, 270°.

At 0427 hours, an A.S.V. aircraft located two submarines in position 02°08’N, 75°16’E and 02°46’N, 75°10’E, to the southward of the course of the Eastern Fleet. This indicated that the possibility of an enemy submarine patrol having been established to cover the eastern approaches to Addu Atoll. Admiral Somerville therefore decided to pass through Veimandu Channel to the west of the Maldives and make an unexpected approach to Addu Atoll from the west. At 0700 hours the course of the fleet was altered to 210°.

At 1335 hours, HMS Fortune was detached to investigate a ship contact made by HMS Emerald but no ship was sighted. Fortune only rejoined the fleet at about 0600/8.

At 1600 hours, HMS Enterprise, HMS Paladin and HMS Panther rejoined with the survivors they had picked up and medical stores were transferred from HMS Warspite to HMS Paladin for treatment of the wounded. Enterprise and Paladin were then detached to proceed immediately to Addu Atoll.

At 2100 hours, the Eastern Fleet altered course to 160°.

8 April 1942.

At 0700 hours aircraft were flown off from the carriers to carry out an all-round search to a depth of 175 miles. Again nothing was seen and at 1100 hours the Eastern Fleet entered Addu Atoll. Refuelling commenced immediately, Force B being refuelled first.

Admiral Somerville held a conference on board HMS Warspite with Flag and Commanding Officers in the afternoon.

Having discussed the situation Admiral Somerville decided to sent Force B to Kilindini and to proceed to Bombay with Force A. This later decision coincided with Their Lordships views as later in the day he received Their Lordships instructions that Force A was not to be sent to Colombo for the time being. Further by proceeding to Bombay the could arrange a meeting with the Commander-in-Chief, India and discuss the situation in the Far East with him.

At 1800 hours HMAS Nestor departed Addu Atoll to maintain an A/S patrol in the sector between 090° to 150° to a depth of 35 miles from the Port War Signal Station. One hour earlier HMS Resolution launched her Walrus aircraft for a ‘round the island’ A/S patrol. It returned at dusk.

9 April 1942.

Force B (less HMS Dragon sailed for Kilindini at 0200 hours where it was due to arrive on April 15th. Force A sailed at 0600 hours for Bombay shaping course to pass to the westward of the Maldives.

During the morning Admiral Somerville was informed of further Japanese attacks in the Bay of Bengal and on Trincomalee and the sinking of several ships, including HMS Hermes and HMAS Vampire but nothing could be done about this.

10 April 1942.

At 1000 hours HMS Panther closed HMS Warspite to transfer Staff Officers for passage to Colombo where they were to inform the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet of Admiral Somerville’s views and make preliminary arrangements to transfer Admiral Somerville’s administrative staff and secretariat to Kilindini.

11 April 1942.

At 0705 hours, HMS Paladin rejoined Force A bringing back the Staff Officers who had been transferred to her on 10 April and also Rear-Admiral Danckwerts, Admiral Somerville’s Chief of Staff ashore. Force A arrived at Bombay later that morning (1040 hours) and commenced oiling.

Japanese operation in the Indian Ocean in late March 1942 and April 1942.

On 26 March 1942, the 1st Japanese Carrier Fleet departed Staring Bay, Celebes, Netherlands East Indies for a raid on Ceylon. This Fleet was made up of the aircraft carriers Akagi, Hiryu, Soryu, Zuikaku, Shokaku, battlecruisers Kongo, Haruna, Hiei, Kirishima, heavy cruisers Tone, Chikuma and the destroyers Urakaze, Tanikaze, Isokaze, Hamakaze, Kasumi, Arare, Kagero, Shiranuhi and Akigumo. This force then proceeded west of Timor and to a position to the south of Java where they fuelled from oilers on April 1st.

On 27 March the Japanese submarines I-2, I-3, I-4, I-5, I-6 and I-7 departed Penang to take up positions in the Indian Ocean for the upcoming operation.

On 1 April the Japanese Mayala Force departed Mergui for operations in the Bay of Bengal. This force was made up of the heavy cruisers Chokai, Kumano, Mikuma, Mogami, Suzuya, aircraft carrier Ryujo, light cruiser Yura, and the destroyers Fubuki, Shirayuki, Hatsuyuki and Murakumo. On 4 April the estroyers were substituted for four other destroyers; Amagiri, Asagiri, Shirakumo and Yugiri.

On 5 April the Japanse 1st Carrier Fleet launched their air attack on Colombo. 53 bombers, 38 dive bombers and 36 fighters were launched. They destroyed 19 Hurricane fighters, 1 Fulmar fighter and 6 Swordfish torpedo bombers. At Colombo the harbour facilities were heavily damaged and the armed merchant cruiser HMS Hector and destroyer HMS Tenedos were sunk.

Then around noon a reconnaissance aircraft from the Tone sighted the heavy cruisers HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall. The 1st Carrier Fleet immediately launched an attack force of 53 dive bombers that sank both cruisers with the loss of 424 members of their crews (Dorsetshire 234 and Cornwall 190). The Japanese then retired to the south-east.

In the evening of 5 April the Japanese Malaya-Force was ordered to commence attacking Allied shipping along the Indian east coast. On 6 April the northern group (Kumano, Suzuya and Shirakumo destroyed 9 ships off Puri (Orissa). The central group (Chokai, Yura, Asagiri and Yugiri) sank 4 ships. The southern group (Mikuma, Mogami and Amagiri sank 3 ships and damaged 2 more. Meanwhile aircraft from the carrier Ryuju, which operated with the central group, sank 4 more ships and damaged 1 more. In all about 92000 GRT of shipping was sunk.

On 8 April 1942 a Catalina aircraft spotted the Japanese 1st Carrier Fleet proceeding for an attack on Trincomalee but the Eastern Fleet was approaching Addu Atoll to refuel and could do nothing. Shipping at Trincomalee was ordered to leave port and proceed to the southward. In the morning of the following day 91 Japanese bombers and 41 fighters attacked Trincomalee. They destoyed 9 Hurricane and Fulmar fighters and 14 aircraft on the ground. The harbour most mostly empty but they sank a merchant vessel and 4 aircraft it had on board and not unloaded yet. Also the British monitor HMS Erebus (Capt. H.F. Nalder, RN) was damged. The Japanese 1st Carrier Fleet was then attacked by 9 Blenheim bombers but they inflicted no damage for 5 of their own lost to Japanese fighter cover. Then Japanese reconnaissance aircraft from the Haruna sighted ships escaping southwards. 85 Dive bombers and 3 fighters were then launched which sank HMS Hermes and HMAS Vampire as well as the corvette HMS Hollyhock (Lt.Cdr. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR), two tankers and a merchant ship.

By mid-April 1942 all Japanese forces had returned to their bases. (6)

9 Apr 1942
my father in law leonard rollinson one of the few that survived sinking. (7)


  1. File (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  2. File (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  3. ADM 173/16988
  4. ADM 199/1138
  5. ADM 199/426
  6. ADM 199/1389
  7. Personal communication

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

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